Game Pie Dishes

A game pie is a savory pastry dish containing any of a variety of game meats. Meat pies were consumed by the aristocracy of the Roman Empire, but it was during the Victorian Era that game pie preparation reached its most elaborate level.

Ceramic game pie dishes were first introduced in the early part of the nineteenth century. The supply of flour in England was severely limited for much of the nineteenth century due to the trade disruptions imposed by the Napoleonic Wars. The earliest examples were produced in caneware so as to resemble a pie crust. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, innovations in ceramic manufacturing allowed mass production of glazed pottery dishes which could withstand the heat of an oven. The pie was baked in an ovenproof insert and then delivered to the table contained within a more elaborate majolica glazed dish.

Game was considered a great delicacy in Victorian times. Previously, only the aristocracy and gentry had access to hunting lands. Hares, partridges, geese, pheasants, pigeons and grouse remained coveted treats. The presence of a game pie at a dinner party was evidence that an aspiring middle-class family had either the wealth or connections to acquire game legally. A finely modeled majolica game pie dish would satisfy the host and hostess that their guests noted its presentation at the dinner table.

Most of the major majolica manufacturers produced game pie dishes. The common motifs centered on hunting themes and game animals. All examples consist of a tureen base with an elaborately decorated cover. The interior of the tureen has an integral rim which supports the ovenproof insert or “liner”. The outside of the tureen is frequently decorated in relief with game animals and foliage. The cover often features an intricately detailed larger animal figure which serves as the handle. Few of the dishes have survived with the interior insert intact.